12 Apr 2006

Tonga hopes Chinese tourists will help turn economy around

8:13 pm on 12 April 2006

Tonga's director of Tourism Va'inga Palu, says the expected start of visits by Chinese tourists later this year could help turn the kingdom's economy around.

Tonga was granted Approved Destination Status by the Chinese government last year.

Mr Palu says this week's visit by the Chinese Vice Minister for Tourism, Zhang Xiqin, and 31 tourist operators have confirmed the status.

He says Tonga needs a tourism market like China to give the ailing economy a boost.

"Tourism is a source of foreign exchange earnings and it provides employment, particularly so for small countries like Tonga, where we need these opportunities and benefits for our people."

Mr Palu says he expect this first tour group to arrive by the end of the year.

He says at this stage Tonga can only cater for groups of up to 30 people at a time.